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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

240                  MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

at Marburg an der Drau in Styria he grew up in Vienna. He
began with Novellen: 'Lateinische Er^dhlungen (1904), Die Graven
des Traums (1906), Jdgersage und andere Novellen (1910). His best
short stories he selected for the collections Das Donameibchn
(1938) and Verheissungen (1954). The most famous of these Battem-
novellen is Barbara Naderers Viehstand (1914), the tale of a robust
wench who is a spinster because she had turned up her nose at
those who would have had her; now she runs her own little farm
in the Styrian uplands and steals a calf which belongs to a Pro-
testant gentleman. She rears it till it is itself ready to breed, and
there are drastically realistic stories of its affairs with two different
bulls. In a time of great shortage of fodder she returns from a
foraging expedition to find all her cattle dead. This tragic end was
inevitable, we are told as the story closes: 'Beicht abhgen hatt ich
gehnsolkn\ she tells herself, 'dannlebetens* noch\ Mell's Catholicism,
as here, is orthodox to the last degree, and thus he differs from
Rosegger, who remains the unsurpassed laureate of Styrian peasant
tales; indeed the whole purpose of MelPs story-writing seems to
aim at showing that salvation for the individual and country is
unquestioning belief in what the priest says. This is expressly
stated in Waldheimat^ one of the tales in SteirischerLobgesang (1939).
The tone and temper of MelPs mystery plays is foreshadowed in
his verse tale (in four-feet rhymed trochees) Die Osterfeier (1921)
and take shape in Das Wiener Kripperl von 1919 (1921), which is
inspired by the post-war return to religion. Crude realism runs
through Die Osterfeier^ but what counts is - as Hofmannsthal
pointed out in words of high praise - the ingenious invention of
the interlocking action, the presentation of Catholic symbol as
poetry that acts magically on simple minds, and the delicate delinea-
tion of mental states. His masterpiece is Das Apostelspiel (1922), at
once a mystery play and a peasant drama (Bauemsjbiel); that is, one
with primitive peasants for players in a rough village location.
The scene is a lonely hut in the mountains in the depth of winter;
no one is there but a young girl; two robbers break in; she takes
them to be the apostles John and Peter, questions them about
obscure passages in the gospels, and so confuses them that they
slip out into the dark night with a ray of light in their awakened
souls. DasSchttt^engelspiel (1923) is more fanciful: a girl is so proud
of her piety that her guardian angel orders her to stand at the
church door saying Htirate micbl to those that pass; this trial with-